Colby’s Adoption Story
“Every adoption is the culmination of countless independent decisions the Lord seamlessly works together.” -Paul Batura
I had hoped to write about Colby’s adoption when he was a newborn, while the emotions and memories were fresh. He’s 21 months old now. Oh, well, better late than never, I suppose. I’m writing this so one day Colby can read it and know the details of his adoption. I’m sharing it with all of you to answer any questions you may have about adoption and because it’s a really awesome story, in my humble opinion. So here it goes…
We always knew we wanted to give Hunter a little brother or sister. When Hunter started Pre-K, he realized most of his classmates had siblings and he wished he had a sibling too. After much heartbreak trying to have another baby, God made it clear to us that adoption was His plan for us to grow our family. So, in December 2014, Eric and I attended a Bethany Christian Services adoption information meeting and soon after submitted the pre-application paperwork.
At the meeting, we learned the basics of semi-open domestic adoption. Domestic simply means adopting a child in the U.S. Semi-open means the birth parents choose the adoptive parents based on a profile book prepared by the adoptive parents. The birth parents and adoptive parents typically meet in person, know each other’s first names, and the part of the state they live, but not the exact location. The two sets of parents agree to how many times the birth parents can request to see the child after the adoption and a schedule for the adoptive parents to send letters and photos to the birth parents.
In February 2015, we were sent the adoption application paperwork. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. Sorting through the paperwork and figuring out what needed to be done became my part-time job for a few weeks. Some forms simply needed to be signed, some needed to be notarized, some forms were for both of us to sign, some we needed a form for Eric and for me, some were quite extensive to fill out, and some asked for very personal information. Then there was fingerprinting for background checks and doctor visits for physicals. Good grief, were we trying to adopt a baby or gain top security clearance at the FBI?
In March, we attended a two-day adoption training. We heard from a panel of birth moms. Each of their stories was unique and inspiring. The courage it took to choose life and place their child in loving adoptive homes is remarkable. We also heard from a panel of adoptive parents. The best line from one of the moms was in regard to people asking her about the cost of adopting. She tells them “It’s the cost of a new car, but it lasts a lifetime!”
We learned about the legal process of adoption for the state of Florida. Once the birth mother signs the adoption paperwork, typically 48 hours after the birth or when she is discharged from the hospital, there is no grace period for her to change her mind. While I know this is a painful, difficult decision for a birth mom, it was comforting to know she couldn’t change her mind after the adoptive parents bring baby home.
As you can imagine, the legal process for the birth father to sign the adoption paperwork can get complicated. An adoption lawyer walked us through various scenarios from a father not willing to sign to a birth mom naming more than one possible father to the mom not knowing who the father is at all. Regardless of how complicated the scenario, she assured us that almost all issues with the birth father were resolved prior to the birth of the child or shortly afterwards. She joked we shouldn’t watch Lifetime movies; they are not real life!
Shortly after the training, we finally had all the paperwork signed, completed and submitted to Bethany. In June and July, we had three home visits from an adoption counselor with Bethany. In these visits, she checked out our home to make sure we were not hoarders or living in unsafe conditions. She talked to Hunter about his feelings about having an adopted baby brother or sister and his daily routines. Hunter, our little talker, had no problem telling her everything she wanted to know and then some. We were relieved he didn’t share anything too embarrassing! And she talked to Eric and me together and separately about our feelings on adoption, our upbringing, our parenting style, etc.
Also, during the summer we worked on our profile book. The profile book contained a letter to the birth parents, descriptions of Eric, Hunter, and me and lots and lots of photos of our friends, family, and, of course, us. In this age of smart phones, we had plenty of photos to choose from. Narrowing them down to the best ones and arranging them in a book was hard. Opening up our lives to complete strangers was hard. Knowing these complete strangers would be comparing us to other hopeful couples was hard. But, finally, we finished the book and were pretty happy with the end result.
Finally, in August, we were officially a waiting family. This meant we had completed everything we needed to do and Bethany would show our profile book to birth parents. And all we could do was wait. After the busyness of the application process, waiting was hard. It felt like we should be doing something. But all we could do was pray – pray for the birth parents; pray for our future child; pray for our patience in the waiting. The typical waiting time is between 12 and 18 months, but it could also be just a week or over two years. Since the decision is up to the birth parents, there really is no way to know. It’s not a waiting list where you can check to see how far up the list you are.
While we were working our way through the adoption process, Eric’s mom was facing her own battle. In March, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had been in remission for ten years. She underwent many weeks of daily radiation treatments, but shortly after we became a waiting family, doctors determined that while the radiation helped, it was not enough. Meme (the name her grandchildren and most everyone else called her) decided on no more treatments. So, we became a waiting family in more than ways than one.
That fall we tried our best to live our lives as normally as possible. Hunter was busy with kindergarten. I stayed fairly busy with part-time engineering work from home, trying to build up my financial coaching business, and some volunteer activities. Eric was busy at work as always. Meme actually felt better as the radiation wore off so we spent a lot of quality time with her.
In early December, my mom and Meme came with us on our annual weekend trip to Savannah. Hunter loved the road trip with both his grandmas in the back seat with him. Meme spent the night with us Christmas Eve and we had a wonderful celebration with Eric’s sister, brother, and their families. Just a few days after Christmas, Meme was admitted to a hospice center. The next day, after they finally had her pain under control, she asked me if I heard anything about the adoption. I explained we wouldn’t hear anything until there was a “match”. It would just be a phone call out of the blue.
On January 2, 2016, Meme passed away. Ten days later on January 12 the “out of the blue” call came. Two counselors from Bethany called Eric first and asked him if he could do a three-way call with me. I was confused at first because I thought someone from his office wanted to talk to both of us. By the time it registered I was talking with the adoption agency, they were telling us a teenaged couple had chosen us to adopt their baby. They had chosen us! Us! With the sorrow of losing Meme still so raw, this news completely overwhelmed my emotions. “Ugly cry” is the only way to describe my reaction.
When I finally stopped sobbing, we learned that a sixteen-year old girl and her nineteen-year old boyfriend were having a baby boy due on January 21. They had reviewed the profile books separately and we were the first choice for both of them. We agreed to meet with them and two counselors from Bethany for lunch in the Miami area, where the birth parents were from.
So, on January 19, we made the four-hour drive to meet the couple that was about to change our lives. We packed an overnight bag just in case the birth mom went into labor that day. We were full of apprehension. What in the world would we talk about? Would they still like us after meeting us in person?
At the lunch, we learned Jessica*, the birth mom, was in honors classes and wants to be an orthopedic surgeon. She lives with her dad and has very little contact with her mom. She asked us if we still had our boat she saw in our profile book. She loves boating and the outdoors. She knew early on in her pregnancy that she would choose adoption. She learned about Bethany through someone at her church. When she met with a counselor from Bethany, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that she would get to choose the adoptive parents of her baby. She had thought the adoption agency would choose the parents, a fairly common misconception about modern domestic adoption.
Jason*, the birth father, was a high school graduate and was planning to attend culinary school. He told us he was adopted at birth and does not know his birth parents. That’s something he and I have in common. Pretty cool that Colby, his birth father and his adoptive mom have all been blessed with an adopted family.
We told them we had chosen the name Colby. Jessica’s eyes lit up; she loved it. Eric went on to explain the meaning of the name. He picked it based on Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a polish priest who was imprisoned in Auschwitz in 1941. While there, men were chosen to face death by starvation to warn against escapes. Kolbe was not chosen but he volunteered to take the place of a man with a family and was killed.
On the drive home, one of the Bethany counselors texted us that Jessica and Jason loved meeting us and the “match” was now official. Now it was time to prepare our home for a baby due in just a couple of days. Yikes! So, off to Target I went. In the back of my mind, I knew there was a real chance the birth parents could change their mind and choose to parent, so I didn’t allow myself to go too crazy shopping. I just picked up small packages of diapers, wipes, and formula, a five-pack of onesies, and a couple of bottles. At home, Hunter’s crib was still set up in what had become the “junk” room. His bassinet, baby swing, and other baby items had been stored in a loft in Eric’s man cave and were in serious need of washing and cleaning.
By a couple of days after the due date of January 21, our home ready for baby Colby, but he didn’t seem to be ready for us yet. Waiting for the call that Jessica was in labor wasn’t too bad at first. Then, she was a week past due. Then, she was almost two weeks past due. Waiting became absolute torture. What seemed to be happening so fast, was now taking forever, at least it felt like it. Plus, fears for the health of Jessica and the baby were creeping in.
Finally, on the morning of Thursday, February 4 we got the call that Jessica had been admitted to the hospital late the night before and we should make our way to Miami so we could see the baby soon after delivery. We made it to a hotel in Miami by early evening. Then there was more waiting. Labor was going slowly. Would this baby ever be born? It was a restless night’s sleep. The next morning, Friday, at 6:52 am, as I was in the hotel stairwell coming back from a run, the text came in – “She delivered a healthy baby boy at 3:52 am. 7 lbs, 10 oz.” Finally, finally, finally!
Around noon, we met the adoption counselors at the hospital and visited the birth parents and the baby. The parents were exhausted, especially momma; baby was peacefully sleeping. He was perfect! We were bursting with excitement but tried to stay calm. While this was a joyous time for us, it was a time of mixed emotions for the birth parents. We asked permission to take a photo to share with friends and family. We let the three of them rest while we had lunch with the counselors and shared the happy news with our inner circle of family and friends.
We spent several hours Friday afternoon and Saturday in the hospital room. We took turns holding the baby. We changed diapers and fed him. We didn’t call him Colby while we were at the hospital; it felt presumptuous. We just referred to him as “him” or “the baby”.
While neither birth parents were big talkers and we worried about saying something that might offend them, we still enjoyed getting to know them better. We felt protective of them. We were old enough to be their parents, after all. Just a few hours after Jessica had given birth, a nurse, who obviously had not read the chart to realize she was planning to place for adoption, said some very demeaning things to her about her needing to step up and take care of her baby. I was incensed. I reassured Jessica that the nurse was rude and way out of line. Poor Jason took a cold shower Saturday morning because the hot water wouldn’t come on. Eric talked to the nurses’ station to get the hot water working before Jessica took her first post-birth shower.
Sunday was “the day” – the day for Jessica and Jason to sign the paperwork placing the baby with Bethany. Then Eric and I would sign paperwork to take temporary custody of him from Bethany. As we were making our way to the hospital that morning, we got the text that the paperwork had been signed. It was official!
After we arrived at the hospital and signed our paperwork, we went to the hospital room again. Jason and especially Jessica were understandably more emotional than the first two days. They were sitting on the edge of the bed holding the baby. I gave Jessica a teddy bear. The counselors recommended it as something she could hold as she was leaving the hospital. It seemed like a poor substitute to me, but I trusted their advice. We gave them each a necklace with a charm that held special meaning for us and told them we had one for Colby we would give him when he was older. I asked them to pick which onesie he should wear home. They picked a bright red one.
This hospital had a policy that all mothers had to sit through a short class about caring for newborns and mom’s postnatal needs before mother and baby could be discharged. Our wonderful adoption counselor convinced the hospital staff to let Jessica take the “mom’s needs” part of the class by herself without all the other mothers.
After she took the class by herself in a hospital room they had set up as a “classroom”, it was time to say our good-byes. I had been dreading this part. When we came in to the “classroom”, Jessica was sitting and holding the baby, staring lovingly at him. We were both crying. Jason was standing by her side. I knew I had to say something. But what do you say to a couple trying to say good-bye to their newborn forever? I’m not really sure exactly what I said; it was a blur. Through tears, I thanked them profusely. I told them I wish there was something I could say to make this easier for them. I told them I couldn’t; there was nothing I could say; it was going to be hard; it was supposed to be hard.
We all hugged. Jessica passed the baby to Jason; Jason passed him to me. Eric and I placed him in the hospital bassinet and we wheeled him back to the hospital room. That was it. After all the paperwork, all the waiting, Colby was ours.
Now it was my turn to sit in on the class with the other mothers for the “taking care of baby” portion. It was somewhat comical – me in full makeup and jeans sitting with all of the other mothers in hospital gowns. I felt even more silly when I was wheeled out of the hospital carrying Colby in his car seat. But hospital regulations dictated someone had to carry the baby out in a wheel chair. And we thought it would be even sillier for Eric to ride in the wheel chair.
As all new moms know, the ride home from the hospital can be terrifying with such precious cargo aboard. Imagine a four-hour ride home! Colby slept most of the way, thankfully. My parents had been keeping Hunter for us. They were all waiting in the garage when we got home. Hunter was so excited to see his new little brother. I think it was love at first sight for both of them.
While taking care of a newborn is never easy, it was a little easier than when Hunter was born. For one thing, I had experience this time. For another, I wasn’t recovering from a pregnancy and child birth! It also helped that Colby was a great baby!
While, of course, adopting Colby was a huge deal to us and our immediate family, we were shocked by the positive emotional response from friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. In Publix one day, an employee who had seen me shopping there for years was confused to see me with a newborn. When I explained, she was in tears and had goosebumps. Countless people have shared with us how adoption has touched their lives in one way or another.
For the first ninety days, we were on “probation”. Our adoption specialist visited us three times to make sure we were adjusting well and Colby was healthy. On June 13, we finalized the adoption at the Orange County Courthouse. The judge was very sweet. She was required to ask Eric and me several questions. She asked Hunter some of the questions too to let him be a part of the process. Finally, Colby was legally and forever ours.
Jessica and Jason have not requested to see Colby. At our first meeting, Jessica told us she felt it would be too hard. They have texted us a few times. We’ve sent the birth parents update letters and photos on our agreed upon schedule. We’re keeping a copy of the photos we send to them in an album for us. When Colby is older he’ll get to see the photos his birth parents have of him and read the letters we’ve sent.
While we were going through the home study process, our counselor asked me how I was holding up. I let her know it was a hard process – so much work, so much waiting, so much out of our control. But, I also let her know I knew once we had a successful adoption it would be so amazing to have experienced both processes – pregnancy with Hunter and adoption with our future child. Well, amazing doesn’t begin to describe it. Through pregnancy, I experienced the miraculous, humbling privilege of carrying a child in my body. Since my own adoption was closed, Hunter is my only biological relative. Through the adoption process, God taught me to trust his timing and his provision. It has given me a deeper appreciation of what my parents went through adopting my brother and me. I feel so blessed God chose me to be Hunter’s and Colby’s mom.
As I said, I’ve written this so one day Colby can understand his adoption story. I’ve also written it because I know God is whispering (or maybe even shouting) to some of you that adoption is His plan for you to grow your family. But you’re hurting. You’re afraid. I understand. I’ve been there. If you’re ready to open your heart to the possibility of adoption, I’d love to answer any questions you may have. I’d love to pray for you. Contact me. And maybe there is someone reading this who is pregnant considering the choice of placing your baby for adoption. I’d love to talk and pray with you as well.
“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” -Jody Landers
*Names of the birth parents were changed to respect their privacy.